The Way Forward
As readers may be beginning to glean, I am an anglophile of sorts. I like Scotch (and I like to spell it with a capital 'S', just to make it sound more important), I like British beer (Samuel Smith's Nut Brown, hmm...), I like London, I like soccer and rugby (but don't worry, I also like American football and baseball), and I like my wife (conveniently also a Brit, woohoo!). I believe that the Times of London may be the most objective newspaper out there.
There are also several British thinkers whom I admire very much, for their intellectual honesty, if nothing else. Oliver Kamm
is just such a person. A self-described "Europhile lefty", Kamm has the stones to admit that, despite the fact that George Bush is a Republican, and therefore nominally the antithesis (or perhaps antichrist) of Europhile lefties, something good is going on in the Middle East, and the policies of George Bush are a significant reason for this. Kamm is also one of the best Chomsky-debunkers out there, something the blogosphere could use a lot more of.
Here's Kamm on the current situation in the Middle East:
There is much to criticise in the execution of US foreign policy in the past couple of years, but the overall strategy is one I consider essential both to the notion of a decent politics and to our security. In a misplaced realpolitik, Western policy had for years acquiesced in the perpetuation of a series of autocracies in the Middle East in order, so it was thought, to deflect anti-Western sentiment. It was, apart from anything else, a disastrous policy on the grounds of the very realpolitik that provided its rationale: the notorious tilt towards Saddam in the 1980s encouraged a despot of scarcely-imaginable brutality in territorial aggrandisement, while the absence of political means of redress across the region ensured that dissent took the form of religious fanaticism. To overthrow Saddam's gangster-regime and allow Iraqis to build a constitutional order with free elections is a course for Western policy that I have supported not only since the first Gulf War but for a decade before (since Israel's destruction of Saddam's Osirak nuclear reactor, when I first became aware and convinced of the gathering storm of Saddam's ambitions). Britain's participation in that venture I count as the most strategically far-sighted and noble act of British foreign policy since the foundation of Nato. (Emphases added.)
This is the point. Rather than allow illiberal regimes to perpetuate their existences, it is incumbent upon the US (and I would hope, all right-thinking democracies) to continue to press for freedom in both the middle east and elsewhere. So far, in the few weeks since the President's bold call for the continued spread of freedom, we have seen a spurt of progress in the middle east, and a small indicator, in Togo, that Africa is not immune to the bug.
Nonetheless, I believe that, barring continued pressure in word and deed by the United States and its allies, most of what has been wrought will be undone. It is far too early to consolidate our victories; the battle between the forces of progress and repression remains poised on tenterhooks. There is no doubt that elections in Saudi Arabia, limited though they are, are a small step in the right direction. Similarly, we must give cautious praise to plans to furthere liberalize Egypt's rigid political machinery and the "cedar revolution" in Lebanon.
The countries in question (Syria and Egypt) have every reason to allow the appearance of greater liberalization without actually making significant, meaningful changes, simply to get Washington and world opinion off their backs. This is why we must continue to press our advantage, to strike while the iron is hot.
Naturally, people will accuse us of hypocrisy, asking how we dare criticize so-and-so while we do such-and-such back home. Let them do that. Levying the charge of hypocrisy allows people, inadvertently or not, to become apologists for the status qou. This status quo is what the president has challenged us to change; we should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Our fallibility as human beings and policy makers should not paper over the fact that democratic change in the middle east is not merely good, but essential.
Many will question whether or not we should be working to facilitate the creation fo regimes which may well not like us any more than their predecessors. This, to me, is a specious line of reasoning - if a new regime in Lebanon is democratic but anti-American, we would still be able to count on them behaving like a democracy. This is why we don't lay awake at night worrying about a threat from France, despite their official policy of anti-Americanism (ok, there are other reasons not to fear an attack from France, but you get the point).
The old saw about democracy is that it is the worst form of government there is, except for all the others. Nonetheless, there is no system more responsive to the needs of polities. And it seems pretty evident that, if given a choice, most people would prefer to beat their swords into ploughshares and get about living their lives rather than take up arms against their real or percieved enemies. This is all that we have a right to ask of any country; bringing such change about is the great challenge of our generation.